The Independent Film Festival Boston kicked off last night with its first screening, which was "The End of the Tour," a film about the journalist David Lipsky traveling with David Foster Wallace as he completed his book tour for his 1996 opus, "Infinite Jest." The movie was directed by James Ponsoldt, with Jason Segel starring in the Wallace role, and Jesse Eisenberg starring as Lipsky, who later wrote a book about his time with Wallace (the movie is based on his memoir, "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace").
Ponsoldt is the first director to have one of his films open the festival multiple times — the other one was "The Spectacular Now" — and he was in attendance, alongside Segel, to discuss the film. Ponsoldt said he had first read "Infinite Jest" in college, and that he "learned more from it than anything else," and that part of the reason that he'd wanted to tackle the adaptation of the Lipsky memoir is that he thinks it's important to "make movies about things that you love and that scare you and that keep you up at night." Both he and Segel said they were very aware of the importance Wallace holds for many people, and wanted very much to honor who he was.
Segel, in particular, said it was important that it didn't feel like "Watch Jason Segel try to do acting," since he knew people might not expect him to take on such a dramatic role. He admitted to some parallels in his own life with Wallace, in that they both struggled with the sense that success wasn't going to resolve the problems they had. "That's not going to be the stuff that makes you feel different inside," said Segel. "We need to really consider where we place our value."
It's a concern that Lipsky, himself a struggling writer and jealous of Wallace's various accolades, can't quite grasp in the movie, and Segel said that when he first started working on the film, he saw it as a "compressed time love story," but that as time went on, he saw it more as "a guy talking to his younger self," which was slightly paralleled by the fact that Segel and Eisenberg were the same ages as their characters while filming.
Segel had one more parallel to the Wallace story, of course: He also just completed a book tour, though he was quick to point out that being on a children's book tour was quite different. "It's totally devoid of any cynicism," Segel said, and shared his favorite tour memory, which was when a very young girl, after much prompting from her mother to ask a question, reached up to the microphone and said, "Frozen." After some additional instruction from her mother, she tried again, and said, "Oh. What's your favorite movie?"
For the record, Segel's actual favorite movie is a three way tie between "Harold and Maude," "Broadcast News" and "Being There."